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Posted 6/13/2017 9:47am by Kinley Coulter.

     The boys spent a long day last week worming our flock of 100 lambs and 80 ewes. It occurred to me that many of our customers have no concept of the difference between conventional and organic lamb. Of all the products we produce on the farm, Lamb is definitely the toughest to manage with Certified Organic practices. ‘100% Grassfed’ is easy. Our lush, nutrient rich pastures can easily produce stout, healthy 100 pound lambs during the green season… from March lambing until November slaughter. The difficulty is in managing parasites… specifically, intestinal worms. Lambs are highly vulnerable to these parasites which cause skinny, sorry looking lambs at best, and dead lambs at worst.

     Non-organic lamb production addresses this difficulty with a wide range of toxic, systemic wormers. These wormers are a veritable ‘witches brew’ of chemicals that end in the letters ‘cide’…. as in ‘pesticide’, ‘herbicide’, ‘homicide’, ’suicide' etc. Our English word ‘cadaver’ comes from the same root as ‘cide’…it means ‘slayer’ or ‘killer’. The nice part of chemical wormers is that they rapidly kill all the worms in a lamb’s gut. The ‘not so nice’ part is that wormers are not ‘specific’, they are ‘systemic’… that means they are ingested and spread through the entire animal. Wormers are given at a dosage that kills worms but (hopefully) stops short of poisoning the animal… much the same as chemo kills cancer but, hopefully, not the patient. A serious problem with worming is that there are only so many different poisons available to use. As flocks are dosed, over and over, with the same ‘little black bag’ of chemical wormers, the worms develop resistance to those poisons and require ever higher dosages. This upward spiral ends when the resistant worms can only be killed by a high enough dosage of wormer that the lamb gets sick (or worse) from the wormer… the supposed ‘medicine’ is worse than the worms. The ‘dirty underside’ of conventional lamb operations is that the lambs have been dosed three to eight times, during their lifetime, with poison that leaves a measurable residual in the meat. So, given a choice, would you rather serve your friends and family a lamb that was chemically wormed or not chemically wormed?

     So, how DO we produce strong, healthy lambs without any chemical wormers? We use a two pronged, natural approach. Several times a year, we feed the lambs a natural dewormer, which is nothing more than garlic, black walnut hull powder and diatomaceous earth (which is just finely ground up sea-shells). This produces a miserable condition for the worms in the gut but causes nothing worse than ‘bad breath’ in the lambs. The other weapon in our deworming arsenal is rigid rotational grazing. The lambs are constantly ‘shedding’ worm eggs in their manure as they graze on pasture. This soils the grass and, after 5 days, the eggs hatch and the little baby worms climb up the grass leaves and are ingested by the grazing lambs. We make sure that lambs are never, ever on the same pasture for 5 days and that they don’t return to soiled pasture for at least 45 days. After 45 days, all of the hatched worms have died and the pasture is safe to be re-grazed.

     When we started raising organic lamb, we were told it could not be done. I took that as a challenge… and, 13 years later, we are here to tell you that, while it is not easy, you can raise Certified Organic lamb on pasture with no grain and no chemical wormers. Try Googling ‘Certified Organic 100% Grassfed Lamb’… you will see how few producers there are and ‘Coulter Farms’ will be very high in the search results. I decided, as a young boy, that lamb was a strong, greasy, overall unpleasant meat. I was pleased to discover that ours is mild, sweet and delicious. I hope you’ll try some. But if not, at least you know a little bit more about what goes in to raising animals at Coulter Farms. I’m not sure I’d want to have been born a lamb… but if I was a lamb, I would want to spend my life here on thick, green, organic pastures with no ‘wormer-chemo’ treatments.

Tags: sheep